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Saturday, February 4, 2023
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US-Taliban conundrum: A game of brinkmanship

Taliban’s decisive onslaught on US strategy of democratic engineering has allowed them to establish Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Despite being accused of its double games in the Afghan conundrum, Pakistan is supporting several states in the evacuation of thousands of people of different nationalities from Afghanistan.

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Taliban’s decisive onslaught on US strategy of democratic engineering has allowed them to establish Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The power shift has allowed Foreign Policy Pundits to regard US withdrawal as the greatest intelligence failure, “Saigon 2.0”, and as a moment of reckoning for US rationality of the “Forever War.” Despite the reluctance of the US to concede the evolving regional matters to settle, one thing is clear that the US and weak Afghan National Security Forces (ANSR) relinquished control of Afghanistan to the Taliban, who is now a political reality.

Surprisingly, as per US intelligence, the state that was to fall in ninety days took less than ten days to fall. Such a hasty departure was not what the US allies were expecting from the strongest military power in the world. The US is clear that the dismantlement of Al-Qaeda and shift towards nation-building allowed uncertainty to creep in. Millions of dollars were spent to build Afghan National Security Forces (ANDF) by providing weapons, training, and logistics, yet the US failed to inculcate the will to fight in Afghan forces.

Read more: Looking at the terrors that continue to haunt Kashmir

What is the US strategy for the way forward?

Despite these challenges, the US is eager to portray the failures as a victory, but as per Stephen Wertheim, Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, “You don’t get to lose a war and expect the result to look like you’ve won it.” Thus, the game of brinksmanship prevails between the Taliban and the US to trounce each other while the other regional actors are closing watching the regional gamble.

Whatever the case may be, the US needs to accept the Taliban as a fait accompli and learn from its mistake – from where the uncertain policy dilemma emerged in the US-Afghan policy. The US will recognize the Taliban or not is a question that remains, but she has allowed other players to play an inclusive role in the rebuilding process. Biden admiration’s poorly managed withdrawal strategy leaves a huge vacuum for the regional powers who look forward to either recognizing the Taliban or not.

As the stalemates for the war ends, China and Russia, along with regional actor Pakistan, are slowly paving their way for a greater role of regional stability, explaining cooperation, and showing humanitarian support for the people of Afghanistan. Moreover, the Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan serves the strategic interest of Russian and China.

For China, the Taliban have assured that extremist tendencies won’t stimulate distress in Xinjiang. In response, China aims to play a staunch role in the reconstruction of post-withdrawal Afghanistan, reaping the forthcoming potential benefits for both sides. Likewise, Russia is emboldened by the Taliban’s victory and aims to find a deal to prevent the influx of extremism and instability in Central Asia, which remains a core area of concern for the Russian strategic gamble in the Eurasian landmass.

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Moreover, Putin has stated that it views Afghanistan as safer under the Taliban, which is in line with inevitable Russian euphoria against Washington’s failures. Therefore, following Russia’s contempt towards the US global efforts on War on Terror, Kremlins intends to establish “friendly” relations with the Taliban, leading to the possible recognition of the Taliban as the de facto authority.

How Pakistan was accused of Afghanistan’s debacle?

Despite being accused of its double games in the Afghan conundrum, Pakistan is supporting several states in the evacuation of thousands of people of different nationalities from Afghanistan. Yet, Pakistan remained to be the central target for the US blame game in Afghanistan. Moreover, the denouncement of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by the Taliban, which remained a major challenge for Islamabad, is welcomed by Pakistan, especially when India was enjoying close ties with President Ghani’s government.

The recent development may find grounds for India’s Kautilya diplomacy to prevail in years to come with the Taliban, but for now, Pakistan is experiencing schadenfreude against its rival’s interests. Overall, Pakistan understands that a stable, prosperous, unified, and independent Afghanistan is conducive for Pakistan.

Challenges remain; for instance, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan province (ISIS-K) provide the US with a common goal to work with the Taliban against a common threat because ISIS-K remains a challenge for the Taliban. This is why the Taliban have reached out to former warlords Gulbadin Hekmatyar, Hamid Karzai, and Abdullah Abdullah to gain political bases against any resistance from ISIS-K and Al-Qaeda.

Read more: China deploys missile systems along Indian occupied Kashmir

Conclusively, the US-Taliban conundrum demonstrated that consensus at the regional level – including Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and US support would lead to an inclusive political system that is conducive to all. On the other side, it is plausible to avoid the game of brinksmanship from the Taliban’s end; they are eager to seek recognition where a bargain with the Taliban for a sustained political settlement, regards to human rights and counterterrorism is negotiable for a common interest.

 

The author is a columnist based in Islamabad and can be reached at: alizafar100y@yahoo.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.